Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Roasted Califlower

Cauliflower has always been one of those vegetables that my kids will eat but would rather forget about if I let them.  They say it doesn't have much taste and since I typically won't let them cover it in cheese it's just boring.   Until Now!  Who knew that simply roasting this unassuming vegetable with some spices would make it a vegetable they would actually request?!  It's like magic!  Ta da!

I originally made one large head of cauliflower and have learned that just isn't enough.  They WANT leftovers of this stuff.  Consider yourself warned.  

Roasted Cauliflower

3 Tablespoons of good quality olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 head of cauliflower 
3/4 to 1 teaspoon curry power 
Sea salt

Mince the garlic into a small bowl and pour in the olive oil.  Using the back of a spoon press the garlic against the bottom and sides of the bowl to help the garlic flavor the oil. Set aside.

Cut the cauliflower into florets and clean them well.  Drain and dry each floret completely.  

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a Baking sheet with parchment paper (makes for much easier clean up) and lay the florets in the pan on top of the parchment paper.  Stir the garlic and olive oil and drizzle all of it over the cauliflower florets.  Toss the florets to coat them evenly with the oil mixture and spread them out evenly in the baking sheet.  I used my hands, it was easiest.  Sprinkle the florets with curry powder and season with sea salt to taste.

Roast in the oven for 30 minutes.  Remove and serve.  While this good nice and hot I have been told that it is also very good cold....yes.....someone loved it so much they ate it cold. 

If you need help with cutting up the head of cauliflower, check out this page, it is short and to the point but does a good job of making it easy to do and understand.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

(Green) Kettle Corn

Popcorn.  Some love it, some hate it, some can't help but inhale it.  Most people have a popcorn, caramel corn, white chocolate popcorn and the often sought after kettle corn. I have been know to give popcorn in goodie bags at Christmas (need I say white chocolate popcorn again?) and it is great as a favor for showers when put in a cute container or cello bag tied with a pretty bow.

Kettle corn is quick and easy to make and is easily colored to match the decorations at any event or just to make it fun for the family. St. Patrick's day anyone?

I use a Whirley-pop popper but have also done it in a large pot.  I you are using a pot you want to make sure it is at least 6 quarts and should be about as wide as it is tall to allow the popcorn to bounce around enough.  If possible, when using a large pot place the lid just slightly off center to allow a bit of steam to escape.  This allows the kettle corn's crisp coating to stay ....well crisp and not get as sticky from the steam.  It is important to have everything ready.  Lay out the parchment paper have the rubber spatula ready, measure out the ingredients and have them within reach at all times.

Kettle Corn (Colored Kettle Corn)

1/2 cup oil (canola, peanut, coconut all work well)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup popcorn kernels
10 drops of liquid food color of your choice (optional)

Whirley-pop pot or 6 quart pot with a lid
parchment paper
rubber spatula

Pull off about 2 feet of parchment paper and lay it on the counter.  Measure out all your ingredients.

Add oil and food coloring if you are using it, to the pot. Stir.  Heat oil over medium heat for about one minute.  Add the sugar and popcorn kernels, stir and cover with lid, or close the top of the Whirley-pop pot.  Heat popcorn until it begins to pop, turning the crank of the Whirley-pop occasionally.  If using a large pot shake the whole pot occasionally.  When the kernels begin to pop begin cranking (or shaking) continually until there are about 2 seconds between pops.  Remove from heat immediately and pour out onto the waiting parchment paper.  Using your rubber spatula, spread the popped kernels out as quickly as possible.  Sprinkle with salt to taste immediately.  Allow to cool for about 10 minutes.  

Break up any large chunks of popcorn that have stuck together.  Serve.

My step mother Amy taught me how to make this and my family has been enjoying it for years since.  Got to love it!

Note:  Adding the popcorn kernels to heated oil instead of cold oil allows them to be fluffier when it pops.  When adding the kernels to cold oil they absorb more of the oil softening it.  The harder the kernels the more force it takes to explode therefore giving you a fluffier piece of popcorn.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Alexia Yukon Gold Julienne Fries with Sea Salt

There are nights that I am just not in the mood to put much effort into dinner.  You know those nights.  Whether it is because the kids have been especially "active" or the washer flooded or your work day seemed to be nonstop or you didn't sleep well the night before...or it has just been one of those know what I mean......crazy! On nights like this I want something really easy but mostly healthy for my family.  Whether it is turkey burgers or panini full of left over chicken and veggies fries are always a welcome addition. Heck!  French fries and apple slices works for me. Fries make me happy!

I like my fries crispy on the outside and tender on the outside.  I don't want fillers or preservatives and love when I can get this in frozen fries.

Alexia has several types of fries including sweet potato (very good!), fries with rosemary and garlic and the ones I choose to tried, the Yukon gold with sea salt.  

I baked them in my Breville counter top toaster/convection oven to make it even easier and they turned out perfectly.  I left them in for about 3 minutes longer than recommended (I usually do, like I said I like them crispy) and they were perfect.  Fresh taste, lightly salted (I added a little more salt) quick and easy.  What else could I ask for.  

Head over to the Alexia Foods Facebook Page and vote to help them "reinvent a classic" (4th link below the picture on the left side of the page).  After you vote you will be able to choose to receive a $1 off coupon on an Alexia food product.

As part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program, I received a coupon for a free Alexia food product

Friday, March 9, 2012

Szechuan Green Beans and Tofu

My family loves tofu and we are always looking for ways to use it.  I usually buy it at Costco and put it in the freezer and pull it out as needed.  Doing this changes the consistency a little, making it a bit spongier, but it works for what I usually use it for. 

I wanted something with a fresh sauce and a little kick.  Fresh minced ginger, garlic and crushed red pepper sounded perfect.  What we ended up with was perfect.  If you like a lighter coating of sauce cut the recipe in half.  My family likes it a bit saucy especially when served with rice.

Szechuan Green Beans and Tofu

1 pound extra firm tofu
1 pound fresh green beans
1/2 cup water, divided
1/4 cup + 3 tablespoons soy sauce
1-1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
6 tablespoons sesame oil, divided
2tablespoons rice vinegar
5-1/2 tablespoons cornstarch, divided
1 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced

Place the tofu on on a layer of paper towels.  Cover with another layer of paper towels and place a large book on top to press out as much of the liquid in the tofu as possible.  This can be done layered as follows from bottom to top:  paper towels, tofu, paper towels, piece of plastic wrap (to protect the book if this is what you use) and topped with a heavy book.  I have also placed the bottom layer of paper towels on a plate, then the tofu, topped with more paper towels, another plate and then a heavy book.  By pressing out as much of the fluid as possible you allow the tofu to absorb more of the flavors you will be cooking with.  Press the tofu for about 15 to 20 minutes.

In a small mixing bowl combine 1/4 cup of the water, soy sauce, tomato paste, sugar, 2 tablespoons sesame oil, rice vinegar, red pepper and 1-1/2 tablespoons of corn starch.  Whisk until well combined.

Prepare green beans by snapping off the ends and breaking into the size you prefer.  Cut tofu into bite size cubes, place it in a medium mixing bowl and toss with remaining 4 tablespoons of corn starch.  Coating the tofu with corn starch will give it a crisp coating when you cook it. 

In a large skillet heat 2 tablespoons of sesame oil.  Add the tofu and cook over medium high heat until lightly brown and crispy, stirring occasionally.  Remove tofu from skillet and set aside.

Reduce heat to medium, add last 2 tablespoons of sesame oil, mince ginger, garlic and green beans.  Cook, stirring constantly for about 2 minutes.  Add the remaining 1/4 cup of water, place a tight fitting lid on the skillet and about 4 minutes until the green beans are tender but still crisp.  Add the soy sauce mixture to the green beans and cook about 2 minutes until the sauce thickens.  

Add the cooked reserved tofu, stir and cook about 1 minute until heated through.  Serve with rice.

Serves 6